Matt Stafford is a Top 10 Quarterback in the NFL, Here’s Why

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Love Matt Stafford and math? Well, get ready for an adventure filled with statistics and division! The major question around the NFL, but mostly in the Detroit Lions fan base is: “Is Matt Stafford a top 10 QB in the NFL?”. Many Detroit Lions fans argue that he isn’t even that good and I wrote about that here. The article got a lot of praise and in the end I said I would compare Stafford to the other 31 starting quarterbacks in the NFL so here we are.

Let’s Clear Some Things Up Before We Start

This article will have four charts I will refer to throughout the entire piece, and uses stats for all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL from 2009-2015. Why not show their entire careers? Well, it wouldn’t be fair to compare Stafford’s stats to someone like Tom Brady who has played in the league for a longer period of time since Brady has been in the NFL for nine more years.

What about quarterbacks that have been in the league since 2010 and earlier, how is it fair to them to compare them with less time played? Well I noticed that was an issue as well, so what I did was divided the completions, passing yards, touchdowns, interceptions and at times the amount of times they have gotten sacked, 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives by the amount of games they have already played in the NFL. What I did then is take that average of completions, yards etc. and multiplied it by the amount of games that the Stafford has played more compared to the quarterback selected and boom. You will get the amount of yards, completions etc. if that player has played the same amount of games as Stafford.

Here is an example to go off of. Stafford played in 93 games and threw for 25,976 yards. Ryan Tannehill has played in 64 games and has thrown for 15,460 yards. So first you divide 15,460/64 and that equals 241.56 yards per game on average for Tannehill. You then multiply 241.56 x 29 since Stafford has played in 29 more games than Tannehill. The results of that is 7,005 yards. 15,460 + 7,005 = 22,465 yards – meaning if Tannehill plays the same amount of games as Stafford, on average he will have less yards than Stafford.

Now I did the same thing for Stafford when comparing him to people like Brady, Brees and Rodgers, players who have played in more games than Stafford, but still those quarterbacks have more years of experience outside of my chart of 2009-2015, so while it does give a better picture it still can’t compare entirely. There are four divisions that the quarterbacks will fall into: Elite, Great, Average, and Poor. I will rank each quarterback in each division then at the very end release a final list of all 32 NFL quarterbacks. Got it? Great, now we can get on to the real talk.

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Poor Quarterbacks of the NFL

Stafford vs Poor 2

To start off the list, let’s take a look at some of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL right now. There are seven on this list. Jared Goff has to be on this list since as he has yet to play a snap in the NFL, he can’t be elite, great, or average if he hasn’t played a down yet so he has to start at the bottom.

Robert Griffin III has only played in 37 games since getting drafted in 2012, not playing a single snap in 2015. He got injured twice and lost his starting job to Kirk Cousins. While he had a good rookie year, he had a sophomore slump going from 20 touchdowns and five interceptions to 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and his completion percentage went down overall. With Griffin having 56 less games, if he were to reach 93 he is still short on completions, yards and touchdowns.

Osweiler hasn’t started a full season, only playing in 21 games. He hasn’t proven his worth yet and if he can show his skills in Houston for a full season, he can easily move up to average. With little experience, he isn’t even close to comparing to Stafford.

Sanchez was drafted the same year as Stafford and even has two AFC title game appearances, further than Stafford has ever gotten, but is he horrible? Yup, just look at the numbers: he has played in less games, not all because of injury but because he was booted from New York as the starting quarterback and was a backup in Philadelphia. While he is considered the starter in Denver right now, that won’t last long as Paxton Lynch will take over.

Tyrod Taylor had his first full year starting last year and while he didn’t do that badly, career-wise it isn’t a good look for him. Taylor just barely had over 3,000 yards in his first year starting last year in 14 games as he was injured for two of them. Taylor is not even close to achieving what Stafford has.

Geno Smith is kind of like Mark Sanchez here, he probably won’t be starting come week one, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick still a free agent, you can’t say he will start yet. Smith is the only starting quarterback in the NFL with more interceptions than touchdowns and he has the worst completion percentage…no need to further explain myself.

Colin Kaepernick, once deemed the savior of the 49ers is down to being a ‘poor’ rated quarterback in the NFL. Giving him 36 more games in the league and he still won’t even hit 17,000 yards and 100 touchdowns. Kaepernick is a name I hear Lions fans wish we had. Looking at the numbers, you really put your faith in this guy?

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Average Quarterbacks of the NFL

Stafford vs Average

Looking at the 10 ‘average’ quarterbacks here, most are still very young. Some of these quarterbacks can turn out to be better than Stafford as they get older and play more and more, but we can’t look into the future, we have to imagine if we had these quarterbacks right now.

Jay Cutler, he has played in more games than Stafford, but still has less completions, yards, touchdowns and more interceptions. No further explanation needed.

Blake Bortles will have less yards and touchdowns while getting more interceptions based off of his average. While he is a good quarterback for Jacksonville, Detroit has a better one in Stafford.

Ryan Tannehill doesn’t come close to Stafford in any category when you include his averages. Tannehill hasn’t had much help in the receiving core like Stafford has, but still, data is data.

Marcus Mariota has only played one season in the NFL but he didn’t do bad his first year. Mariota would come close to Stafford in touchdowns at 93 games played, but everything else is far away from him.

Sam Bradford has injury issues all over. Bradford with the stats would still be a good ways away from Stafford’s numbers, that is if he can last another 30 games and isn’t benched in Philly.

Andy Dalton is close to becoming a great quarterback. He has been to the playoffs many times but still can’t get that first victory. His numbers are lower than Stafford’s at 93 games, but if he can have a breakout year, he could move his way up.

Kirk Cousins hasn’t had much playing time, only having one full season at the helm as starter. His touchdowns do come close to Stafford for touchdowns, but for completions and everything else he won’t come close. Also, he would have 93 interceptions which isn’t good. Stafford does have a knack with 98 interceptions – that isn’t a good number to have.

Teddy Bridgewater won’t even hit 20,000 yards by 93 games and not even 90 touchdowns. While Bridgewater is the best quarterback the Vikings have had since Favre, even Culpepper, he still isn’t that much better than some of the other quarterbacks in the league.

Derek Carr is someone who can move into the ‘great’ section very soon. While he would get in the 20,000 club for yards, his completions would also be in the 2,000 range and nine touchdowns away from Stafford’s 163. Carr could be better than Stafford in the future, but for now he isn’t.

Jameis Winston is another one year player on the list. He had an impressive first year in Tampa Bay and while he would be just over 2,000 yards away from Stafford’s yards in 93 games, everything else is far away and not close. Jameis is good for the future, but for now Stafford knocks him out.

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Great Quarterbacks of the NFL

Stafford vs Great

Eight Players here with Stafford and this is the category in which he fits. While he isn’t one of the best in the league, he is a top 10 quarterback.

Tony Romo has less games played, but more touchdowns and less interceptions, along with more 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives. Romo would come close in yards and completions in five more games. He does have an injury bug and once again can’t seem to get far in the playoffs, but he is the first one on this list who, as much as it pains me to say it, is better than Stafford.

Joe Flacco, is a quarterback people have deemed ‘elite’. Well, looking at the numbers, he isn’t that elite. Flacco has played in 13 more games than Stafford, but still has less completions, yards, touchdowns and more interceptions. He has gotten sacked more which does impact how a quarterback can do because if they can’t get protection they can’t throw the ball. Either way, even with the higher sack numbers, he still is behind Stafford.

Alex Smith is in a worse situation than Flacco. He has one more game played than Stafford and is way behind in completions, yards and touchdowns and he only has 11 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives. Smith has always been an average quarterback, but when looking at the others in the league, he had a good completion percentage and TD/INT ratio which gives him the nod to the ‘great’ section.

Cam Newton, the MVP last year. His numbers won’t come close to Stafford at 93 games, but if he can have MVP type seasons for the next two years, he will jump over Stafford. Watch out for Cam, he could be on the rise.

Carson Palmer is another with more games played, but with less yards and touchdowns, and more interceptions. He does tie with Stafford in game winning drives which is impressive, but everything else falls short. Palmer is great, just not great enough and with five seasons in his career where he couldn’t play all 16 games, it shows his injury rate.

Eli Manning is next and with two Super Bowl rings you would think he is ‘elite’. Well looking at numbers, if Stafford plays 19 more games he will jump over Eli in completions, yards and tie him in touchdowns. Manning is a ‘great’ quarterback and has led his team to two Super Bowl wins, but Stafford is still the better man here, close but no cigar.

Andrew Luck is the next quarterback who I will say is better than Stafford. Luck is on track to be less than 900 yards away from Stafford and have seven more touchdowns than him while having five less interceptions. Luck missed some games last year, but he is someone I would pick over Stafford (just minus the whole contract thing.)

Matt Ryan is the final player in this section that is better than Stafford. Sure Stafford would have more yards, completions and touchdowns at 110 games, but he already has more interceptions, times getting sacked and he wouldn’t jump Ryan in the late game situations, which you need as a quarterback to make it in the league. While Ryan hasn’t been to the Super Bowl, he has come close but just can’t catch a break.

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Elite Quarterbacks of the NFL

Stafford vs Elite

Now for the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. These six men are clearly better than Stafford and a majority of them have more experience than him, but sometimes experience isn’t everything.

That goes for Russell Wilson who has played 29 less games than Stafford, but has won and lost a Super Bowl, as Stafford hasn’t been out of the wildcard game. Wilson doesn’t come close in yards or completions, but is only nine touchdowns away and his interceptions would be at 49 which is exceptional.

Ben Roethlisberger has two rings and in just six more games played he has more completions, yards, touchdowns and less interceptions. While Stafford could jump in completions and touchdowns, he would still be short in yards and his completion percentage would still be lower.

Drew Brees has the best completion percentage on this chart from 2009-2015, and with the amount of completions, yards and touchdowns, Stafford has no shot to catch Brees.

Aaron Rodgers has only 10 more games on Stafford and while he could jump in completions and yards, Rodgers is too far ahead on touchdowns, and way less interceptions, showing how smart he is with the ball.

Philip Rivers is an underrated elite quarterback. In the 19 extra games he has more interceptions than Stafford, but is that shocking? He is the only ‘elite’ quarterback on this list to not have a Super Bowl ring, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be good still. Rivers would lose in completions and yards, but still have an edge in touchdowns and have less interceptions.

Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the NFL right now with four Super Bowl rings. Stafford could jump Brady in completions, but yards, touchdowns and less interceptions go to Mr. Brady. Tom is a legend, so good luck Matt.

Quarterback Rankings

Now that the comparisons are over, it is time to rank the quarterbacks. Is Stafford a top 10 guy? Check it out

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Aaron Rodgers
  4. Philip Rivers
  5. Ben Roethlisberger
  6. Russell Wilson
  7. Andrew Luck
  8. Matt Ryan
  9. Tony Romo
  10. Matt Stafford
  11. Eli Manning
  12. Joe Flacco
  13. Cam Newton
  14. Carson Palmer
  15. Alex Smith
  16. Derek Carr
  17. Andy Dalton
  18. Jameis Winston
  19. Teddy Bridgewater
  20. Jay Cutler
  21. Ryan Tannehill
  22. Blake Bortles
  23. Kirk Cousins
  24. Marcus Mariota
  25. Sam Bradford
  26. Brock Osweiler
  27. Tyrod Taylor
  28. Robert Griffin III
  29. Colin Kaepernick
  30. Mark Sanchez
  31. Geno Smith
  32. Jared Goff

Now, with data about Stafford and every other starting quarterback in the NFL in front of you, you can see that the Lions are lucky to have a guy like Matt at the position. Other teams have controversy at the position with a starter beginning their decline or two average quarterbacks just battling to see who is better than the other for a week. So, Lions fans, please stop talking about trading Stafford, cutting him or not re-signing him. There are nine other quarterbacks in the league right now better than him and they seem to be on their teams for the rest of their careers, so we have no better options. Oh, also Stafford is only 28 years old, so he has plenty of greatness left in the tank and when he brings us that first playoff win and a Super Bowl ring, come back here and realize you were crazy thinking we would be better without him.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.